Klobuchar urged her colleagues to pass the Save our Stages Act, legislation that would provide relief for independent venues hit hard by the pandemic

Earlier this year, Klobuchar introduced the Save our Stages Act with Senator John Cornyn of Texas

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WASHINGTON — Today, at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing titled, “Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on the Live Event Entertainment Industry,” U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) highlighted the urgent need for Congress to provide relief for independent live music venues. 

In June, Klobuchar and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Save Our Stages Act, which would provide Small Business Administration grants for independent live music venue operators impacted by the pandemic. These grants would provide six months of financial support to keep venues afloat, pay employees, and preserve a critical economic sector for communities across America. The bipartisan legislation currently has more than 50 cosponsors, and the House version of Save our Stages passed as part of the updated HEROES ACT in October. 

 

“I think one of the things we have learned from this pandemic is it is not one-size-fits-all. That not every business and every group of employees are affected in the same way...I think we all know that you can't go stand in a mosh pit in the middle of a pandemic. I think you know you can't sit elbow to elbow in a small theater, whether it is in a big city or a little town,” Klobuchar said at the hearing. 

“So many of these venues are literally the heart of our communities. They are the place people go. Since we are quoting a lot of things, we do not want to be the Congress that lets the music die. We don't want this to be the year that we let our cultural icons die. So with that, Senator Cornyn and I have introduced this bill. We are working really, really hard to get it in the relief package and we are feeling good about the work that’s going on,” Klobuchar continued.

Small live music and entertainment venues have been hard-hit during the coronavirus, with 90 percent of venue owners, promoters, and bookers reporting they are at risk of closing without additional financial assistance and an estimated $9 billion in losses without ticket sales until 2021. 

Transcript of remarks at the Commerce hearing as given on December 15, 2020 here: 

KLOBUCHAR: I wanted to thank everyone — just embrace everything that you guys have said in such wonderful words. You can see the creativity of the state of Tennessee, Senator Blackburn, coming through in your turn of phrases, Mr. Strickland, and I am more than happy to have, with Senator Cornyn, led this in your words “band of gypsies” over here so that we can get something done. I think one of the things we have learned from this pandemic is it is not one-size-fits-all. That not every business and every group of employees are affected in the same way. I know the home state of Jefferson Bus Lines, Minnesota, understand that. See it in the faces of the people literally starting to cry at an event at the Moorhead Bluestem Amphitheater, as they talked about the Merle Haggard concert, or see it in the face of Dayna Frank who heads up First Avenue in Minneapolis as we stood in front of that iconic star of Prince, knowing that he and so many other artists across this country could not have gotten their starts without entertainment venues. 

I think we all know that you can't go stand in a mosh pit in the middle of a pandemic. I think you know you can't sit elbow to elbow in a small theater, whether it is in a big city or a little town. 

So many of these venues are literally the heart of our communities. They are the place people go. Since we are quoting a lot of things, we do not want to be the Congress that lets the music die. We don't want this to be the year that we let our cultural icons die. So with that, Senator Cornyn and I have introduced this bill. We are working really, really hard to get it in the relief package and we are feeling good about the work that’s going on. There still has to be some changes made. I'm also a big fan and cosponsor of the Restart Act that you just spoke to, as well as the CERTS Act involving the bus lines. I just want to remind our colleagues, and I know they know this or we wouldn’t be doing this hearing, thank you to Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Blumenthal, if it wasn't for that understanding that not every industry -- tech companies, man they are doing great -- but so many of these small venues are not. 

My question of you, Mr. Hartke, with your cool drum set over there in Wichita, is just could you explain how it will be really hard to bring back these venues? You cannot just snap a finger and they’re going to be able to come back with your low margins if we let the music die. 

ADAM HARTKE, Cotillion Co-Owner and Wave Operating Partner: Many of our venues have taken generations to build. As I told the example of The Cotillion in Wichita, these are, especially in smaller markets like Wichita, this is an ongoing effort that is passed on from generation to generation, to get acts to come to Wichita, Kansas has been the work of many, many decades of people. Not only that, but to get the spaces that are appropriate for hosting music. You mentioned First Avenue, that is a magical place. There is not another space like that in the world. 

If you lose a First Avenue, it is going to be nearly impossible to replicate that. You can’t just go into any warehouse and set a stage in it and it has that magic. That is true of The Cotillion in Wichita and Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. All of these venues across the country that have been there, even if they are not historic, the new venues like Wave, it has a certain thing to it. 

KLOBUCHAR: Could you talk about how it was hard enough for your venues being independent venues, so many of you competing as we’ve see more and more consolidation with some of the big guys in the industry, and how -- to me, the pandemic has simply put a magnifying glass on this problem. We are not going to talk about antitrust here as I look at Senator Lee and Senator Blackburn and Senator Blumenthal all involved in this issue, but could you talk about how it is hard to get by right now anyway, without the pandemic?

Adam: The live music industry is increasingly difficult, due to the consolidation of the industry. Mom and pop businesses are fighting tooth and nail to still ensure they can still get shows, and are able to route tours through the cities and it is hitting secondary markets just as hard as it’s hitting major markets. 

KLOBUCHAR: Okay, very good. I think I will end with you, Mr. Strickland. Just words for us as we go into these next few days, when everyone is waiting for a result from this Congress to be able to do a package at the end of the year. Any advice? 

MICHAEL STRICKLAND: Consider the humanomics. There are 10 plus million people across this entire industry doing nothing. I want to reiterate that. We are not like restaurants or gymnasiums or hair salons that open and close and have a chance to do something. We are doing nothing right now, 97% of the people are either unemployed or underemployed. Can you imagine being a dental assistant and not being a dental assistant for 18 months and having to go work at Home Depot? That is what has happened. You have a lot of really talented people, and we do this in the live industry for one reason— we love it. For a love of the game, for the love of the music. We've got entertainment and event people scattered across the landscape working at Home Depot and Amazon and it’s soul crushing and as an industry, not just venues, as an industry we will not come back if we don't receive relief, because the Restart Act is the only thing that we have. We cannot go get a commercial loan. 

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you so much. 

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